ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon women's basketball team is turning defense into offense.
Make that, a lot of offense.
Junior guards Melissa Sweat and Allison Gida combined for 42 points as the Raiders continued their torrid scoring pace with a run-and-gun 88-59 victory over Lewis-Clark State on Friday at Bob Riehm Arena.
Easing through the first day of SOU's annual Flagship Inn Classic, Sweat made 8 of 9 shots, including 4 of 5 3-point attempts, on her way to a 20-point, five-rebound night, Gida had a game-high 22 points on 10-for-15 shooting and Southern Oregon scored at least 85 points for the seventh time this season to remain undefeated at 7-0.
"We've always been a running team trying to score a lot of points," SOU head coach Lynn Kennedy said, "but I think this year our defense has really picked up, too. Long arms, we've got some length, we've got some big bodies, and that really creates our offense, too. We're able to push it up a lot faster I think this year, more so than other years, and our shooting percentage this year has been phenomenal."
The Raiders were especially deadly from outside in the first half, as Sweat, the San Diego State junior transfer, and Gida, the former Ashland High star who also transferred from a Division I program (Utah), combined to hit all 11 of their shots, including six from 3-point land. The jump-shooting clinic — the Raiders hit 21 of 31 overall in the opening half — helped the Raiders jump out to a 51-23 halftime lead, continuing a trend that has the Raiders two wins away from opening Cascade Collegiate Conference play with an undefeated record.
Not counting two exhibition losses to Division I programs, the Raiders, who won their first eight games last season before finishing 14-16, are walloping opponents this season by an average score of 96-57.
"I personally have never had a team where you have to push the ball like that, but I really enjoy it," said Gida, who's averaging 12.7 points, four rebounds and three assists. "I think everyone likes that style of play, too. It's perfect for us."
It certainly seems to be a good strategy for the athletic, sharp-shooting Raiders so far.
Pushing the ball after both makes and misses, the Raiders scored 17 points in less than five minutes to turn a 14-8 lead into a 31-11 rout with still more than 10 minutes to go in the first half. Six of the baskets in that key run were layups, including Kiara Moore's score off a nice full-throttle lob from Haley Newell, but a 3 by Gida made it 27-11, and she scored inside 30 seconds later to continue the pounding.
"I feel like we're in shape and we can run against anybody," said Kennedy, pointing out that 11 Raiders played, none more than 26 minutes. "I could tell (Lewis-Clark State) got a little bit tired at the end of the first half and second half, and that does help."
The Raiders increased their first-half lead to as much as 31 points on a Sweat 3 with 5:38 to go. Explosive off the dribble with a feather-soft shooting stroke, Sweat is hitting 70 percent of her shots, including 55 percent of her 3's (12-for-22).
"She's a really good player, and we're really lucky to have her," Kennedy said of the 5-foot-11 Sweat. "I mean, there's a lot of D1's that would love to have her right now but the thing about Melissa is she's a team player. You don't walk away thinking she had 20, 22, 25, 28 points, it just happens."
Annie Kane scored 15 points and Tanis Fuller added eight points and four rebounds to lead the Warriors (0-7).
Ten of the 11 players who checked in scored for the Raiders. Besides the big two, Alexi Smith had eight points and six rebounds, Angelica Cahee nine points and four assists and Moore a team-high 10 rebounds.
Tidings sports editor Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 and email@example.com